Two or three times a year, there’ll be a major conference on sexual health, or a report released on how many new sexually transmitted infections – STI for short – were diagnosed in the previous year. Usually there’s an up-tick in something and media coverage follows like, well, clockwork. Just as predictable are the narratives invoked to contextualise the findings.
A recent article by Aisha Dow is a case in point: along with online dating and hookup apps, the article suggests that ‘complacency as a result of improvements to HIV treatment, decreased condom use and more young people travelling overseas could also play a part.’
For a long time I assumed the clinicians and epidemiologists offering these explanations were playing out a cunning media strategy. Now, I’ve come to believe they just don’t read any social research. They offer journalists the same explanations they themselves have read in the newspapers – contributing to an unchecked epidemic of bullshit.
Image credit: Reginald Mount, ‘The easy girlfriend’ (poster), Norwich: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1943-44. This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).